Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth® and the hard work of Oyate Teca staff, thousands of residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota will have access to fresh vegetables and fruits, a scarce commodity on the reservation, and expensive when available.

Since January, about 50 participants in The Oyate Teca Project’s gardening program have been waiting for this day to come.                       

During the cold hard days of winter and through the rains and flooding of spring, these budding gardeners have persevered, never giving up hope that the gardens they worked to till, irrigate and plant in their own yards would provide for them.

“Gardening season is well underway at Oyate Teca,” reported director Rose Fraser, who also oversees the Medicine Root Gardening Program on June 14. “All our plants are in the ground and thriving.”

In addition to assisting families in the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, Rose also oversees the operation of Oyate Teca’s 2-acre community garden as well as its farmers market, so even families without gardens can purchase produce at affordable prices.

Rose uses Facebook to get the word out on the reservation, posting earlier this month “We have fresh kale, spinach, leaf lettuce, for sale at the youth center.”

In fact, Oyate Teca’s community garden has been so successful and productive that Running Strong is purchasing produce from Oyate Teca to distribute in our fresh food boxes to families throughout Pine Ridge.

For example, June’s fresh food box could contain just picked snow peas, green beans, radishes, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, onions, and even cherries.

For July and August, other vegetables and fruits that could be added to the boxes include beets, zucchini, crooked neck squash, turnips, potatoes, pumpkins, apples and plums.

“We just continue to add items as they become available,” explained Rose.

Pine Ridge is what is known as a “food desert” defined by the Department of Agriculture as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.”

In rural areas such as Pine Ridge, a food desert is a place where the nearest grocery store is more than 10 miles away, and for many residents of the reservation a grocery store may be much further.

But thanks to the supporters of Running Strong, Rose, and all those helping out on Pine Ridge that’s changing for thousands of residents of the reservation who will be able to eat healthier, today and throughout the fall.

“So proud of the staff, students and volunteers who helped planted, tilled, raked and weeded,” says Rose.

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